For those of you who read this blog in the past, you may recall the stunning rate of success I had predicting how that week’s Ohio State game would turn out.
Oh, it had absolutely nothing to do with my intelligence (or lack thereof), or football knowledge (or lack thereof).
Instead, all the “credit” should go to the predictability of the Buckeyes under Jim Tressel.
In a game like this Saturday’s against Miami University, it would have been the same script. Come out like gang-busters in the first half, and open a 2-3 touchdown lead, before calling off the dogs in a comfortable 34-10 victory, or something like that.
Tressel teams (almost) never ran up the score, and he always went out of his way to avoid embarrassing the in-state schools.
The times….they are a-changing.
If you’ve watched any of the ESPN All-Access stuff on Ohio State, you’ve no doubt seen and heard all the play Urban Meyer’s comments about wanting “an angry football team” has gotten.
From day one, the tone has been set from the head coach on down, that it’s pedal to the metal all season, every quarter, every play for the Buckeyes.
Meyer’s teams at Florida played all out. In his six seasons in Gainesville, the Gators topped the 50-point mark 15 times. From 2001 through 2010 at Ohio State (including 2010 vacated results), Tressel hung half a hundy on just six opponents.
Keep in mind, none of this was meant to bash Jim Tressel or his program…on the field at least. His ten years in Columbus were astonishing. He had a 106-22 record, won the 2002 National Title, 7 Big Ten titles and was 9-1 against Michigan.
That has been replaced with a guy who over those same ten years went 104-23 with two national titles, five conference or division titles, and 21-3 in “rivalry games”.
Despite all the controversy and embarrassment to the OSU program over the past 18 months, you can’t argue that this hasn’t been a soft landing.
The Lead Up
Getting back on track…what will happen Saturday when the RedHawks visit Columbus? This marks the fifth all-time meeting between the two schools, with Ohio State victorious in the first four. However, only two are in recent history, with meetings in 2000 and again in 2005 in Ohio Stadium.
Both programs are coming off losing seasons. The Buckeyes had seven losses (6-7), something that hadn’t happened in Columbus since ’97….no not that ’97…1897. Miami is no slouch, historically either, as that program is one of the top 20 in terms of all-time winning percentage. The RedHawks, though, were 4-8 last year.
As for 2012, I would have to think that Coach Meyer and his staff are far more concerned with how the Buckeyes perform than any challenges that Miami might pose.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
All eyes will be on quarterback Braxton Miller, to see the improvement he has made since he was thrown into the fire as a true freshman last season. The talent is unmistakable, but how equipped is Miller at this point to run Meyer’s offense. I think we’ll see significant strides on Saturday, but enjoy as he grows by leaps and bounds during the season. Michigan’s Denard Robinson is a spectacular football player, but he hasn’t shown the ability to be a great quarterback. Braxton Miller could wind up a better player than Robinson.
You read it here first; I think Carlos Hyde will have a dynamite year for the Buckeyes. I think he could be a thousand yard rusher, and if the passing game develops, Hyde has a combination of speed and power that is the perfect running back in Urban Meyer’s offense. While the spread, and passing game, has received a lot of attention, Meyer still wants a balance of passing and running.
The other are of interest for me will be how the various weapons are used. Yes, Jordan Hall’s absence will be noticeable, but how will Zach Boren and Jake Stoneburner be used? We’ve heard rumors of Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton on the field at the same time; will that happen (not likely)? What about the progress of the wide receivers?
I expect some explosiveness on offense Saturday, but not a fine-tuned machine. It should be exciting for the fans.
When Miami Has the Ball
The Ohio State defensive line is the deepest and most talented in the Big Ten, and could be right up there with any defensive front in the country. This group will be counted on each week to disrupt the quarterback, and that will be the key on Saturday.
Miami quarterback, Ada native Zac Dysert has passed for 8,530 yards in his career in Oxford, third among active quarterbacks in the FBS, trailing only Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and USC’s Matt Barkley. For some further perspective, Dysert’s three-year total would be good for an Ohio State school record, nearly 1,000 yards more than Art Schlichter.
The RedHawks will try to move the ball through the air, and test a secondary that didn’t always receive passing grades last season at Ohio State. Those defensive backs will rely on pressure from the defensive front, which I think they will get. Miami starts a sophomore and a true freshman on the left side of the offensive line, a unit which was a weakness a year ago.
At linebacker, I’ll be keeping an eye on Curtis Grant. The sophomore came in last season highly touted, but didn’t see the field much, as he was still learning the defense. He’s listed as the starter in the middle, but will likely come out in passing situations, so we may not get an accurate gauge of his improvement.
Players to Watch
I’ve listed some of them already, but here are a couple others under the radar. Reid Fragel played tight end last year, but is now the starting right tackle. He’s been challenged in camp by true freshman Taylor Decker, so that’s a position to watch.
I would think the defensive line will rotate a lot of players. We know pre-season All-American John Simon is a load to handle at one end spot, so whoever lines up opposite of him will likely face single-coverage. So, guys like Michael Bennett, Nathan Williams (depending on how much both play due to injury), Steve Miller or Noah Spence could spent a lot of the game in the Miami backfield. Tackles Garrett Goebel, Johnathan Hankins, Chris Carter, Joel Hale and Adolphus Washington could also benefit from the attention on Simon.
I think we’ll see a breakout game from either Devin Smith or Corey (Philly) Brown, or possibly both. These wideouts are anxious to show they are talented, and much improved from a year ago. I would think a point of emphasis for the Buckeye offense would be to build confidence in the system, as well as the players.
Let’s be honest, Miami doesn’t have much chance of winning this game. Maybe if it was the second or third game of the year, but not in the opener.
Ohio Stadium will be more fired up than usual for an opener, a combination of the Urban Meyer debut, and the fact that the university’s new semester academic period has students on campus already. The players and coaches will also be fired up, and should only be fueled further from the fans.
The RedHawks will be able to throw the ball some, likely just because of the sheer volume of play attempts they will get. Ohio State wants its own offense to be up-tempo, which means less clock used, and more plays run for both teams. Miami’s offensive line will have its hands full; so I’m not sure Dysert will ever really be able to get comfortable
I think that the Buckeyes will be efficient on offense, and their tempo will wear down the RedHawks in the second half. This won’t be a massive blow-out, but it’s not going to be close, either. I’m going with Ohio State 48-13.
The coverage on 10TV and Buckeye Blitz will continue all weekend long. We’ve got an hour-long Buckeye Blitz special Friday night at 8pm from the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill in Grandview Yard. Former OSU safety Mike Doss is scheduled to join us live. Plus, 10TV cameras were at the OSU hospital in February of 1984 to see then-head Coach Earle Bruce meet his newly-born grandson for the first time. Now Zach Smith is prepared to make his debut an as OSU assistant coach.
Saturday, we’ll post game pictures and analysis on our Buckeye Blitz web page, and wrap-up the game with our new “Gameday” coverage at 6pm and 11pm. Wall to Wall Sports will be live at 11:35pm from the Donatos in Upper Arlington (corner of Northwest & Zollinger). Former OSU wide receiver Roy Hall is scheduled to join us to break down the game.